Players and head coach Terry Stotts have noted the slippage they’ve had on the defensive end.
These Portland Trail Blazers, however, have gotten stops when they need them late in games.
It’s not something they take lightly.
“Every coach wants you to play 48 minutes and play every possession but there is a skill to being able to lock into a possession the last six minutes of the game,” Stotts said.
The Blazers are 13-3 in games that are within five points with under five minutes left to go, according to NBA.com.
Looking at NBA.com’s “clutch” statistics, which tracks individual and team statistics in games that are within five points in the final five minutes, the numbers show that they have been able to lock in on defense when they need to.
“Finding ways to get wins at either end of the floor, and we’ve shown the that ability,” Stotts said. “That’s something that I don’t take lightly.”
Teams are scoring 97.4 points per 100 possessions against the Blazers in clutch situations, which would be good enough for the third best defense if sustained for the whole game.
However, the Blazers have not had that type of sustained success for 48 minutes for quite some time — and nobody can really pinpoint why that is.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Wesley Matthews “I wish that we did it from the start because that’s what we need to start doing from the start. We want to be an elite team, we want to go far, we need to continue to win.”
The Blazers have not taken their opponents lightly. Additionally, Stotts has had his analytics team look at the defensive numbers by quarter of some of the league’s best defensive teams such as San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Indiana.
What he found was that there was no perfect formula or time to play great defense. Just because they have been able to get stops late does not mean they are OK with their currently 23rd ranked defense.
“I think you have to take everything in perspective,” Stotts said. “You can’t get complacent, you can’t make excuses, and realize that it’s a long season. Every team is going to get better and we have to get better.”
Stotts, too, has been weary of the point differential statistic as too much of a measuring stick in his 20 years of coaching in the NBA. While the Blazers measure up well in that metric, Stotts sees a more basic metric helps tell the story: wins.
“I think it’s a little bit arbitrary,” he said with regards to point differential. Sometimes you have blowouts, sometimes you win close games. Winning close games can be undervalued when you look at point differential because there is something to winning close games.”